Felipe Massa must be a happy man. He vindicated himself by winning the Bahrain Grand Prix, in the face of all the criticism he was subjected to after his disastrous non-performances in the last two races in Australia and Malaysia. Doubtless he would have preferred champagne to non-alcoholic peach juice during the podium celebrations; he deserved it, considering he withstood all the pressure to put in an almost flawless drive to victory at the barren, picturesque desert circuit of Sakhir, Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, is not quite living the fairytale season he had last year during his debut with McLaren Mercedes. The ban on traction control seems to be making drivers’ lives difficult. Now isn’t that just what we, the spectators, want? A run-in with former teammate Fernando Alonso, now going through another unhappy season, this time with Renault, added spice to an otherwise uneventful race. No yellow flags, no safety car, no penalties- the only warning from race control was one pertaining to oil on the track. The much anticipated exciting start did materialise to a certain extent. Robert Kubica, on pole for the first time in his career, was slow getting off and allowed Massa, starting from the dirty side of the track, to power his Ferrari into the lead. This was followed by some smart overtaking by Kimi Raikkonen in his own Ferrari, thus slotting in right behind Massa, and finishing in the same order, with Kubica coming in third. This result has made for an interesting order in the team championship, with BMW leading the pack with 30 points, ahead of Ferrari (29) and McLaren (28).
The Hondas were looking good for a comeback, but Jenson Button collided with David Coulthard’s Red Bull, putting paid to their hopes of a strong return. Rubens Barrichello, however, gave them something to cheer about, finishing close behind Alonso in 11th place. Giancarlo Fisichella finished 12th in his Force India, and while that may not exactly make him a household name in India or get our news channels all excited, it was a considerably good result for a team that, in the past few seasons, restricted its competition to Super Aguri. The Italian finished, rather surprisingly, a place ahead of Hamilton. There was a bit of excitement for Fisi in the shape of a battle for position with Hamilton, but that didn’t last long as the Briton overtook him on the straight. In the end, however, it was Fisichella who prevailed.
I hold a grudge against the commentators, and it’s not just because I’m a Ferrari fan. Steve Slater just cannot seem to get enough of Lewis Hamilton, and most of his commentary is about how circumstances should alter for Hamilton to improve his track position. And those hopes often consist of having one of the Ferraris overheat its engine and blow up, or have a slow pit-stop, or get penalised for a mistake that hasn’t even been made. Why on earth is he so biased? If you think it’s because Hamilton was phenomenal in his first season, then how can Slater’s preference for Coulthard in the early years of this decade, or later, for Button, be explained? When he’s not talking about Hamilton, his commentary is about McLaren. He does give the others credit when they deserve it, true, but he appears overly fond of British drivers and teams.
Now the caravan moves on to Europe, and in three weeks’ time, the Spanish Grand Prix will take place. At the moment, Dani Pedrosa might be more popular in Spain than Alonso, but Alonso will surely be motivated to do well at home and effect a comeback even with the Renault team that’s just a shadow of its former championship-winning self. With three teams in the fray, though it is too early in the season to talk of concrete results, the battle just seems to be hotting up.